Workers doubt equality at work is achievable

Over half (51%) of workers do not think people from all backgrounds will ever have equal opportunity to succeed within their organisation.

Broken down into different disparities, the survey by recruitment company Hays found that a further 43% of professionals said they don’t believe ethnic minorities currently have equal opportunity to succeed within their organisation.

A third of professionals think their company fails to deliver equal opportunity for women (34%) and over-50s (32%); and a quarter (24%) say it lacks opportunity for those with disabilities. 

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Yvonne Smyth, group head of equity, diversity and inclusion at Hays, told HR magazine: “It’s disheartening in 2021 to see that professionals are not confident that there will ever be equal opportunity for everyone to succeed in their place of work.

“Clearly, many professionals have heard their employer ‘talk the talk’ on diversity and inclusion, but not put it in action in a way that resonates.”

Internal communication of work to improve EDI may be part of the problem as 34% reported that their employer did not publicise their efforts.

Unless employers start to make clear commitments, Smyth added, and communicate them to their workforce, professionals are likely to continue to be pessimistic about the future of equality in the workplace.

Johanna Beresford, CEO of EDI consultancy In Diverse Company, told HR magazine that changing the focus to lasting results will address employees’ concerns.

“EDI strategies and programmes won’t increase employees’ confidence in their organisations,” she said.

“Two things will help increase staff optimism. One an increase in diverse representation at a senior executive level; and two, all employees feeling that they can perform at their best within their organisation.”

She added: “Real results, not EDI initiative overload, will convince staff that equality can be achieved – and when I see senior executives driving this agenda, not just HR, it makes me extremely optimistic.”

Sandra Kerr, race director at Business in the Community, warned pessimism about diversity in an organisation has a real impact on retention.

She told HR magazine: “We need to keep focused on what’s at stake.

“It’s a fact that many people still feel they need to leave their company in order to advance their careers, and that feeling is heightened for workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

"Employers are prioritising race, but unless more companies act to improve both racial equality and inclusion, they will see their diverse talent disappear.”


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